An ancient military strategy suggests “the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend.” In the modern war to engage eyeballs, it seems at least a couple of the primary opponents of Disney are teaming up to create competing kid-friendly material. Specifically, Nickelodeon has struck a multi-year deal to produce new, original content for Netflix.
The two companies will produce shows based on existing intellectual properties and all new ones. The two companies have already produced new series based on Nick’s existing properties, including Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling and Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus. They’re also reportedly working on a live-action series based on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
It’s pretty obvious what these strategic moves are intended to counter. While neither company’s moves have any direct reference to Disney’s latest venture, the fact that the House of Mouse is keeping all its nostalgic and child-friendly content for itself can’t be great for the likes of Netflix. When parents are looking for something to sit their little tykes in front of, Disney is more likely to win just because of the size of the library it offers. Disney+, the homegrown streaming service, launched yesterday and, despite technical difficulties, managed to snare some 3.2 million app downloads within the first day, according to Apptopia. According to Disney itself, the streaming service has more than 10 million subscribers already — while that’s nothing to compare with Netflix’s reported 150 million, it’s also nothing to sneeze at for a service less than a week old.
It’s not just Disney — HBO Max, another competitor, has managed to snatch up Sesame Street and the entire Studio Ghibli library. If Netflix wants to compete, it’s going to have to invest in even more kid-friendly shows.
Nickelodeon’s history with Netflix wasn’t always an amicable one. It pulled its shows from Netflix in 2013 (ironically, at roughly the same time Disney was expanding its own relationship with the platform), but they later returned. It’s curious the company’s choosing to invest its kids’ properties in Netflix, given parent company Viacom will shortly close its merger with CBS, which has its own streaming service called CBS All Access.
Nickelodeon isn’t the only content creator with whom Netflix is making alliances. According to the New York Times, the company is putting together a stable of experienced animators and directors, including Disney and Pixar alums. Melissa Cobb, Netflix’s head of kids and family, has said that some 60 percent of the site’s audience watches that type of content. She’s apparently spearheading Netflix’s efforts to expand its offerings, telling Variety, “This is a huge area for Netflix, but it wasn’t an area where Netflix had invested a lot of energy or money toward original content. My brief was to expand that slate.”
No word yet on when we’ll see the new Nick shows, but Netflix has two animated films and two series on the slate set to release before the end of the year.